It is a committee made up of members from each house appointed to reconcile the differences between two versions of a bill that has been passed by both bodies. Each conference committee has either three or five members from both the House and the Senate.
Each biennium the leaders in the House and the Senate set the number and scope of the standing committees and establish committee chairs according to which party is in the majority. Whichever party holds the most seats in either the House or the Senate is considered the Majority Caucus.
In the Senate the majority caucus elects a majority leader, who is also chair of the Rules and Administration Committee. Two other chairs are elected by the entire caucus, the chair of the Tax Committee and the Chair of the Finance Committee. Other chairs are selected by an organizational committee of the majority caucus. Membership on the committees is according to the proportion of each caucus. The minority caucus may offer suggestions of individual members for the minority representation on each committee. The minority caucus also names a "minority lead" on each committee. The Rules and Administration Subcommittee on Conference Committees selects members for conference ommittees. In addition, no Senator may serve as the chair of a specific committee or one under its jurisdiction for more than three Senate terms.
In the House, the Speaker chooses the committee chairs and appoints members of each committee. Each member is allowed to state his or her preference. In deciding on a committee chair, the speaker usually chooses a senior member with some expertise in the committee's work, but not always. A member cannot serve as the chair of the same standing committee or division during more than three consecutive regular biennial sessions. This Rule does not apply to service as chair of the Committee on Rules and Legislative Administration. Ideally, committee memberships reflect the balance of DFL and Republican members in the House. Each committee, therefore, would be a representative sample of the whole body. Conference committee members are also appointed by the Speaker.
In the House, committees range in size from 10 to 25 members. Each member usually serves on three to five committees so she or he is able to focus on a few areas of policy development.
Membership on Senate committees ranges from 11 to 20. Each member generally serves on five or six committees.
It is the job of each committee to hold public hearings on bills, to put each bill into its best form, and to recommend to the full body only those bills that the committee feels merit further consideration. The committee takes testimony from the public, bill sponsors, and experts in the areas the bill affects.
Committees have a number of choices for action, including the following: amending the bill, combining two or more bills under one file number, sending more detailed or complex bills to a subcommittee for further examination, recommending a bill to pass as introduced, recommending it be passed as amended, sending it to another committee with recommendation to pass, sending it to another committee without recommendation to pass, or killing the bill by voting it down, tabling it, delaying action, ignoring it, or returning it to its author.
Yes. Members of the general public are encouraged to testify before committees, though testimony may need to be arranged with committee staff prior to a scheduled hearing. Committees primarily focus hearings on particular bills, though occasionally they discuss issues of broad interest within the committee's jurisdiction. It's best not to come to testify at a committee hearing without first contacting the committee staff or your representative. Call House Public Information Services at 651-296-2146 or Senate Information 651-296-0504 to find the phone numbers for committee staff or to receive a standing committee schedule.
Here are 10 suggestions to make it easier to get involved:
Special needs accommodations such as sign language interpreters or large print materials can be arranged with advance notice. See Special Needs Access for details.
House Public Information Services has created a series of short videos about testifying before a committee.
No. Usually, though, every bill that becomes law goes through the committee process first. Members of either the House or the Senate may vote to forgo the committee process and give a bill all three of its readings on the same day in extraordinary situations where time is an issue.
In addition, every bill is assigned to a committee, but not every bill receives a hearing. That is up to the chair of the committee and, in the Senate, the chief author of the bill.
Yes, all committee hearings are open to the public - even conference committee hearings. In addition, all committee hearings are taped. Since 2000 select coverage of the House audio and video and Senate hearings and floor sessions are available over the Internet. Complete coverage began in 2004 for the House and in 2005 for the Senate. For information on listening to audiotapes for earlier years, contact the Legislative Reference Library at 651-296-8338.
There is no yearly deadline for the introduction of bills. However, each year the Legislature establishes deadlines for committee action on bills by concurrent resolution. The deadlines do not apply to the House committees on Capital Investment, Ways and Means, Taxes, or Rules and Legislative Administration, nor to the Senate committees on Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Administration.
Committee deadlines are announced during the first half of a session in order to winnow the list of topics to be dealt with that year.
The Minnesota Constitution sets a deadline for the end of each year's session: the first Monday after the third Saturday in May.
You can find schedule information on the Legislative website on the Schedules, Calendars, and Legislative Business page. Paper copies of daily and weekly schedules are available at House Public Information Services in Room 175 of the State Office Building. House Public Information can be reached at 651-296-2146. Paper copies of daily and weekly schedules are available through Senate Information, which is located in Room 231 of the Capitol and G204 of the Minnesota Senate Building. Senate Information can be reached at (651) 296-0504.
Minnesota State Legislature